The makings of a theo-lingual conspiracy?

Updated - September 16, 2016 04:40 pm IST

Published - June 28, 2016 12:38 am IST

Why do we write ‘god’ with a capital ‘G’? God is a concept that stems from the human’s theological conditioning. Unlike a proper noun like Madras, Jesus, Durga, among others, god is an idea. So why should it be written with a capital ‘G’?

The English language has a history that goes back nearly a millennium. The earliest English documents and manuscripts didn’t carry god in a capital ‘G’. Linguists and philologists such as Edmund Sapir, Grearson and India’s Rahul Sankrityayan, Tamil-English poet A.K. Ramanujan and Suniti Kumar Chatterjee were of the opinion that it was with the advent of Protestant Christianity that god began to be written with a capital ‘G’. While the Catholic and Orthodox denominations of Christianity gives greater importance to Jesus’s mother Mary, Protestants lay emphasis on Christ and his heavenly father, god.

All religions, especially the Semitic religions, namely, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, suffer from acute male chauvinism. This patriarchal mindset gets reflected in usages such as “He is our divine father”, “God’s love for His children is boundless”, and so on. Protestant writers of English thought that unless god was written with a capital ‘G’, his gender dominance as a male entity wouldn’t be established. So god became the ‘G’ spot of the prevalent religiosity.

Flexible rule The script was employed to bring home the point of theological despotism. Granted, even before the advent of Protestant Christianity and prior to the 13th and 14th centuries, god would be written with a capital ‘G’ but there was no hard and fast rule there. Just check the liturgical screeds of the Vatican written between the first and fourth centuries: capital-letter emphasis on deities wasn’t constant.

God with a capital ‘G’ has its roots in the early gender specifications and the church’s hegemony. God must be written with a capital ‘G’ to specify that it’s different and much greater than human beings. Since god is a man’s concoction (truly a man’s, because the prehistoric woman had no inclination and crooked intelligence to concoct something like god), he wanted to make it exclusive and thought of it as a male gender. Thus the simple god became ‘God’ and its gender was specified by man in terms of His/Him/He and so on.

It is strange that now when many European newspapers and their erudite editors have seen through this ‘theo-lingual conspiracy’ (a phrase coined by the father of deconstruction, the late Jacques Derrida of the Sorbonne University, France) and begun to write god without a capital ‘G’, many Indian publications still write god as God.

This is all the more irritating because if BC (Before Christ) can be replaced with a much more universal BCE (Before Common Era), why do we still write God instead of god? The time has come to get rid of blatant religious totems from all walks of life. This is not a stubborn insistence of an atheist but the need of the hour. We should strip the Roman script-based languages of this condescending linguistic superiority of god and deconstruct the languages.

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